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International women's day

Much still to be done on gender equality : UN Women's Day forum

Better education, effective laws that protect women, empowering women, and more women represented in legislatures will bring about gender equality in Thailand and the Asia-Pacific region, say international women's rights experts.

They were commenting yesterday at a United Nations conference marking International Women's Day 2014 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in Bangkok.

The UN said that to ensure gender equality and women's empowerment received sufficient priority as necessary conditions for meaningful, inclusive and sustainable development, any post-2015 development framework should contain a standalone goal on gender equality.

UN Women and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) hosted the event under the theme "Equality for Women Is Progress for All".

"Fourteen years since the Millennium Declaration, it is clear more than ever that progress for all requires us to tackle the structural and root causes of inequality between women and men, girls and boys, in Asia-Pacific and across the globe," said Dr Shamshad Akhtar, UN undersecretary-general and Escap executive secretary.

Women in the Asia-Pacific region continue to face severe deficits in health and education, and in their access to power, voice and rights, the conference heard.

The skewed male and female child-morality rate is another issue, with more girls under the age of 15 dying than boys.

The forum highlighted gender inequality and gender-based discrimination as impeding progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are to expire next year, and women's rights experts across the globe underlined the urgent need for action to ensure gender equality.

The commemoration featured an interactive dialogue that examined the impact of the MDGs on women's rights and how gender equality could be achieved in the region amid rising inequality.

"We should stop violence again women, especially sexual violence," said India-based Dr Gita Sen, founder and executive committee member of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era.

"Governments can do this but they're not doing enough. Political change is the key issue."

Sivananthi Thanenthiran, executive director of the Malaysia-based Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, said sex education in the region needed to be updated to help prevent the spread of the Aids virus.

She also said child marriage was a growing problem.

Saman Zarifi, the Thailand-based regional director for Asia and the Pacific at the International Commission of Jurists, said there was much violence against women in the Kingdom but many did not report it.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN undersecretary-general and UN Women executive director, said: "International Women's Day is therefore also a day to recommit ourselves to working harder for gender equality, together as women, men, youth and leaders of nations, communities, religions and commerce.

"We also acknowledge that progress has been slow, uneven, and in some cases women and girls face new and more complex challenges."


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